First, the Instagram Experience...
The Fife Arms, which reopened in late 2018, was the ultimate geotag brag this past winter; its prime spots (the settee underneath Lucian Freud’s Child Portrait (Annie) and the corner by the Robert Burns–themed fireplace, above, being particular favorites) were constantly occupied by editors, tastemakers, and CEOs. But how did it really measure up with Instagram’s most discerning travelers?
"We found utopia—casual chic with the best food and drink. There are so many places to hang out you never feel like you’ve seen the same corner twice. We felt transported to 18th-century life in the Scottish Highlands.” Amanda Ross, stylist and designer
"Such is the charm of this remarkable hotel, combining tartan, tweeds, and taxidermy with a dash of surrealism and playful wit, that its astonishing eclecticism is immediately and utterly beguiling.” Justine Picardie, former editor in chief of Town & Country UK and Harper’s Bazaar UK
...And in Real Life
When an art world power couple buy a crumbling Scottish hotel and spend four years transforming it, you expect it to have good art, especially when the couple in question are Iwan and Manuela Wirth, founders of the Hauser & Wirth gallery, which has a roster that includes Mark Bradford, Isa Genzken, and Rashid Johnson. What they have actually done with said hotel—the Fife Arms, a Victorian-era inn two hours north of Edinburgh in Braemar, near Balmoral Castle—is a lot more than just installing a few standouts.
While the Freud painting in the lobby and the Louise Bourgeois spider looming over the courtyard are impressive, it’s the 16,000 other objets that make the Fife so wonderfully authentic and thoughtful—and more than just an Instagram hotspot. “How we tell the story is important,” Iwan says of the Fife’s eclectic mix of local artists and international stars.
Take the drawing room: The walls are lined with the custom Fife Arms tartan made by Scottish designer Araminta Campbell (it’s also on the staff uniforms and in each of the 46 uniquely decorated guestrooms). Picasso’s Mousquetaire Assis hangs in one corner, while the hotel’s newly minted coat of arms is on the mirror across from the fireplace. Then look up: The ceiling is a colorful mural by contemporary artist Zhang Enli, who was inspired by the swirls seen in a kind of Scottish quartz.
“There’s a real sense of discovery when you visit,” Iwan says. You’ll never want it to end.
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This story appears in the April 2020 issue of Town & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW
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